Have you ever been shocked by life’s turn of events?
I’ve had several defining moments when life seemed to spiral out of control, like the day my baby sister told me that her ultrasound showed that her baby had severe disabilities and was not expected to live. Like the day I got the call that her baby, my niece, had passed away.
Maybe you’ve experienced trials and sufferings of another sort and wondered why God would allow them. Maybe you’re in a long term trial right now and you’re wondering if God has made some colossal mistake in the story of your life.
Years ago, as a child, I remember a church service where a Child Evangelist came to present the gospel in a chalk illustration. I was interested in art at a young age, so his demonstration intrigued me. He stood on the platform with a huge sheet of paper and worked, hands flying and smudging the chalk as fast as he talked. I attentively watched as he added lines here and color there, sudden swatches of dark next to light, bringing unseen shapes to the foreground.
Is that going to be a hillside? A road? No, a tomb? No, what is it?
I was mesmerized and surprised that at the end of his talk, the final product was the face of Jesus.
Do you stare at the portrait of your life and wonder what God is doing?
What story is He telling?
Why this dark trial here?
Why this heartache?
Why that loss?
What are you doing, Lord?
Where are you?
Why is this taking so long?
Do you know what you’re doing, because I’m really getting scared.
We can’t see the end while we are living in the middle, but it’s comforting to know that God has a plan for the final product. He wants the image of Jesus Christ to be seen and displayed in our life.
The Bible uses another artsy analogy, of a potter working a lump of clay into whatever sort of vessel he pleases, compressing, chiseling, squeezing, firing, proving, until he makes just the sort of vessel that is useful to him.
The clay doesn’t get to choose what he becomes. That is entirely up to the Potter.
So the potter molds different vessels, all unique but just what he wants, just like God makes us with certain gifts and abilities, spheres of influence, and tasks for us to do.
We may be made of different materials, have different functions and roles, some more glamorous, and others, mundane, but to compare ourselves to others would be foolish because we were created for specific good works.
He may put us in a place of prominence or in a secluded area. We might be set aside for a season, but our role is still the same: faithfulness to our calling and to our Creator.
Trials are never fun. Nobody wants to suffer. But suffering, it turns out, is a gift. It’s one of those gifts we’d rather not have, but it catapults us towards Christ like nothing else can. And the gift of suffering allows us to have a unique, unexpected “fellowship” with Christ which endears our hearts to His, and tears our grasping hands from this earth.
So that dark season of suffering did not mar your story, but was the contrast needed to allow God’s glory to shine brightest.
And that trial we thought would nearly kill us and ruin our life, was another layer where God’s glory could be displayed, and the finished work of Jesus face would be overlay-ed and superimposed on the picture the world sees when it looks at our life.
Even when our own sin and foolishness brings us trouble and heartache, God’s grace and goodness re-paints the scene and covers our mess with the perfect image of Christ.
This truth, that God is working all things for my good and His glory,
that none of my suffering is random, helps me to trust and embrace whatever God has for my life, and to rejoice in any suffering that comes because of it, knowing that suffering drives me to Him which strengthens my spiritual life, even when my body, emotions, or resources are wasting away.
Trials put me right where I need Jesus every day and know it.
May Christ be seen in the story of my life, especially during times of trials.
What about you? Has your life taken unexpected and unwanted turns that seem unfair and unwanted? Can you trust that no suffering is wasted in God’s economy, but that it has the purpose of drawing you closer to His Son? What can you do today to change how you view suffering and to embrace it with joy?